Though I've travelled quite a bit, I've actually lived my life in Ontario, Canada. Born and raised in Kingston. Took an Honours Bachelor of English Literature at Trent University in Peterborough. Worked at the Stratford Festival in Stratford; then Young People's Theatre in Toronto; then at the Grand Theatre, back in Kingston. Switched from the performing arts milieu into journalism and wrote for The Kingston Whig-Standard and Kingston This Week; ultimately freelanced for a whole whack o' different publications. When not reading, writing, or thinking about writing, I like to knit and bake.
Been writing since before I could guide a pencil on my own (dictating stories to my long-suffering kindergarten teacher). My non-fiction work (op/ed and reporting) has appeared in print since my first year at university in 1986. More recently my fiction has short-listed or placed in various contests and appeared in a number of publications, both online and in print.
In university I always thought about my subject...wrote my first draft...and then edited as I typed my good copy to hand in. During my journalism days I had to bash out finished products pretty quickly as well. These styles have contributed to a monumental aversion to the "zero" or "shitty first" draft approach to fiction that many writers advocate. I'm stuck with thinking a LOT, trying to get all the elements of a piece sorted in my head before I commit them to paper/the screen, which doesn't always serve me. Some of my best short fiction has come, almost entire, out of...nowhere. So - I'm always rethinking my approach. And I'm always working on something, even if it's just sifting details, scenes, characters and plot points in my head.
Some stories can be told in exactly 50 words (plus a title). For a brief shot of fiction, try any of these. Most of them just occurred to me, and then the fun was in the fiddling to get them to exactly 50 words. If you like any of these, please do click the "like" button below the story on the site. Don't worry - it's anonymous. It just tells me people have visited, read, and enjoyed.
Anyone who's spent time in a writing class with me will assure you I am very fond (perhaps too fond) of writing rather loooong "short" stories. These ones, however, are under 1000 words and yet they work. It can be done!
Young man considers various romantic approaches. This story was just for fun. It's slightly over 200 words long - and not a single word is repeated.
What happens when you keep artists in a tent surrounded by miles of sand? Inspired by a photograph, as all 1000 Words submissions had to be (they chose four 250-word stories for each issue). First published in 1000 Words Summer 2016: Playa. Only available on amazon.com (or .ca or .wherever-in-the-world-you-are).
The things this woman had to get done in one day. Sound familiar? Or perhaps not... This story shortlisted in the Brilliant Flash Fiction Springtime Contest.
Longer works, over the 1000-word mark that demarcates "flash" from "short" stories.
Where do you go when you die?
I was inspired to write this piece when Philip Seymour Hoffman died...and some people were nasty about him online. The voice of the recently-dead person in the story is NOT Philip Seymour Hoffman - I don't really know anything about his life - but I like to imagine he might have sounded something like this, upon arrival.... A version of this story placed in the top ten for the Elora Writers' Festival Short Story Contest in 2014. Many thanks to Brian Henry for giving it an online print home and adding such beautiful illustrations.
We just don't know who is yarn bombing the newsroom, but whoever it is, they're working magic.
This story appears in the Winter 2018 issue of The Ocotillo Review, available for purchase from Kallisto Gaia Press. It started life in the online course "Writing Short Fiction" at Writers' HQ, in an exercise on voice. I'd wanted to try first-person-plural for some time, even if just as an homage to Joshua Ferris's fantastic novel Then We Came To The End. I'd also wanted to write about about someone yarn-bombing a public space, but I hadn't thought of what public space or what the story might be. The Writers' HQ exercise required us to go to Post Secret, find an image that spoke to us, and start writing. The image that got me was a simple yellow card with a fortune-cookie-style paper saying "Spread the Joy" off-centre to the right. On either side of it was written, "I want to know little acts can change...the world."
And The Yarnabomber happened. The story got some serious tweaking during the online course as we explored the craft of writing short fiction. I entered it, titled "We're All in This Together", in the John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award for 2017. Didn't even semi-final. Made a few slight changes - including to the title - and submitted it to The Ocotillo Review with 15 minutes to spare before the deadline for the Winter 2018 issue. And within 24 hours, the editor had emailed to say he LOVED it and wanted it. Validation sure is sweet when it comes!
UPDATE: Kallisto Gaia nominated The Yarnabomber for a Pushcart Prize! That's one thing off my bucket list. And....it didn't win! But still - I only ever dreamed of being nominated, so - DONE!
The history behind a curious inheritance.
This is one of the stories that just came to me when I started writing with the use of a prompt suggested by Brian Henry. Take a novel - flip to any page - read the first sentence at the top of the right (or left) page - write for 20 minutes, seeing where it takes you. The book I used was The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley. (His magnifying glass belonged to a stamp collector.)
The garbageman with a violin and a dream.
Sadly, the journal that this story appeared in is ALREADY DEFUNCT AFTER JUST ONE ISSUE! And you must scroll all the way down to page 24 to find Vidmar and read his story, which came about in a Brian Henry workshop on How to Write Great Characters.
I studied William Butler Yeats in high school and at university, and I'm still fascinated by his idea of "spiritus mundi" - a kind of universal spirit or soul that encompasses all lived experience, that anyone (but apparently particularly poets) can tap into. What would happen if you tapped into it accidentally...and found yourself transported to a different time and place?
This piece arose out of imagining what a new friend of my young daughter's might be like when he grew up. It's always fun to adopt a different voice for a first-person narration.
No real story behind this one - can't even remember why I wrote it so mean and nasty....except that sometimes it's fun to go dark.
Another kinda nasty tale, appearing in the ODD-isms anthology and available for purchase on amazon.com (.ca, etc). This story also has its origins in a Brian Henry workshop, though I don't remember which one - maybe Writing With Style? I do remember all us participants brainstormed a wide variety of opening sentences, and when writing time came, we each had to pick one and go with it for 20 minutes. The line I chose, which remains the first line of this story, was, "The tines of the fork were digging into her ass."
In one of the many classes I took with Brian Henry, people began asking about how to write sex scenes. (In fact if memory serves, that happened in more than one class.) Of course this inspired me to write a short story about a writing class learning how to write a sex scene. Of course it did.
The follow-up story to this story...is that it's the first piece of writing I ever read out loud to an audience, at one of Brian Henry's quarterly reading events. How they worked at that time: someone poked a finger at a piece of paper and whichever letter was thus randomly chosen, the person whose name started with that letter was the first to read of those on the roster. The readings then proceeded in alphabetical order - from that particular point in the alphabet. We started with B that night, I believe...but before we got to the M's (Brian always went by first name), someone needed to jump the queue and leave early so as to put young children to bed. Brian then decided to continue from that point - making my agonizing wait to read EVEN LONGER. M wound up being the last letter. I knew my writer friend Maureen was also reading. Maureen comes after Mary in most alphabets...but oddly, not the one Brian's computer uses, I guess? He called Maureen to read - and another friend and I locked eyes and she mouthed at me, "Did he forget you?" It turned out no, he hadn't forgotten me - it was just the aforementioned computer oddity. I was the last to read and so jazzed and apprehensive with the wait, it was all I could do to get up and make my way to the front of the room. But - I was richly rewarded with an attentive audience with an excellent sense of humour and of the ridiculous...and ever since that night, I've been addicted to reading my work in public.
Occasionally - okay, probably a few times a year - I enter fiction writing contests. Sometimes the story I enter long-lists, or short-lists, or even places somewhere. But often, with contests, that's as far as it goes. In many cases, contests don't have a venue for publishing the winners - or they do, but they only publish the first place, or the top three, and not the short-listed or long-listed entries. Then I try to find the chosen one a home somewhere else. These are the stories that have done something, but are still homeless waifs. Maybe a short story collection...
Imagine the Freedom
What it just might mean to someone to win the top prize on a scratchie lottery ticket. Longlisted in the Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest in 2018.
This is not a short story
Two damaged people shopping for mementoes for each other in an art gallery gift shop. Placed third in the 2017 Elora Writers' Festival Short Story Contest.
Studies in the Nude
What does the model in a life-drawing group think about as she's posing, anyway? You might be surprised.... Semi-finalist in the 2016 John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award.
Miracle at IKEA
God sips a double-double and contemplates humanity at one of his favourite people-watching places: the restaurant at IKEA. Then something happens... Placed in the top five at the 2016 Elora Writers' Festival Short Story Contest.
Friday in the City
A young woman walks into downtown Toronto, observing the teeming and tumultuous life of the city and at first feeling as though she's on the outside, looking in.... Tied for third place in the 2013 Burlington Public Library Short Story Contest.
...if you attended the reading events at which they made their debut. Some of the stories in the categories above this one also debuted at reading events. This list includes stories which I read aloud...and then failed to place anywhere. Poor things. Perhaps they'll eventually move up in the world....
Boy gets girl fitness tracker. I got the idea for this when I found myself enjoying the encouraging messages my Fitbit sent me more than the tracking feature.
A Writer With Every Book
What would happen if...instead of fixing the issues beta readers had with your manuscript...you published anyway, and called upon your beta readers to help you explain your novel to any readers who were confused by it? I got the idea for this story from writing classes in which the instructor kindly pointed out that it is not an option for authors to sit beside their readers and explain stuff, which is why you have to make sure you address any concerns BEFORE you try to get your book out into the world.
How It Goes
A lament by a writer who finds herself stuck at Procrastination Station. Not based on real life at all. Okay, I lied. It's almost 100% true.